Calls on companies, investors, regulatory bodies, stock exchanges and corporate stewardship organizations to take actionable steps to increase board-level disability inclusion; publishes global board disclosure research.
ALEXANDRIA, VA. (June 21, 2023)—Disability:IN, the global nonprofit driving disability inclusion in business, today introduced “Boards Are IN,” an initiative to accelerate the number of people with disabilities in corporate boardrooms and in executive suites. The campaign will engage companies, investors, regulatory bodies, stock exchanges and corporate stewardship organizations around effective ways to increase corporate board-level disability representation.
“Boards Are IN” calls on stakeholders to:
- Modernize corporate board nomination and governance committee charters to include candidates with disabilities in their definition of diversity as most already do with gender, race and ethnicity. In the 2022 Disability Equality Index, only two percent of 415 participating companies do so.
- Adopt model language that many public companies and stock exchanges are already using to incorporate disability as an aspect of diversity when considering new board candidates.
- Participate in the Disability Equality Index (DEI) to analyze and improve their corporate disability inclusion programs and policies. Findings from the 2023 DEI will be released on July 10.
- Disclose disability data to investors and shareholders, who increasingly view diversity and inclusion as a vital component of corporate social responsibility.
- Encourage voluntary self ID at senior levels in order for boards and companies to measure progress against diversity goals.
- Partner with corporate steward organizations such as Equilar to access a pool of board-ready executives with disabilities. Disability:IN is a member of The Equilar Diversity Network.
“People with disabilities face significant economic inequality but are still not viewed through the same prism as other underrepresented minorities,” said Ted Kennedy, Jr., co-chair of the Disability Equality Index, the leading corporate benchmarking tool for disability inclusion and board member of the American Association of People with Disabilities. “Disability is a component of inclusion, and this is a blueprint for companies to modernize board-level representation in a way that will enhance corporate performance, benefit shareholders and catalyze opportunities for people with disabilities.”
The catalyst for “Boards Are IN” is Nasdaq’s 2021 ruling requiring U.S. listed companies to work towards including more diverse board candidates, including women, underrepresented minorities and LGBTQ+ individuals. Nasdaq left out people with disabilities in the ruling, despite evidence of a strong business case for disability inclusion. Accenture research found that companies that champion disability reported 28 percent higher revenue, 30 percent higher economic profit margin and superior shareholder returns.
“Boards are most effective at governing when members bring diverse abilities and perspectives to the table,” said Jill Houghton, president and CEO of Disability:IN. “While Nasdaq missed an opportunity to hold the torch, the disability community is now tuned in to the fact that they’re being excluded. Through our engagement with corporate leadership and stakeholders, people with disabilities will have an opportunity to prove they belong at the highest levels of business.”
New global research report
With pro bono legal support facilitated by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, Disability:IN produced a legal report that analyzed corporate board disclosure laws across 10 global jurisdictions. Released today, the findings revealed that several important stock exchanges already include people with disabilities in their board disclosure requirements, including the London Stock Exchange and the Toronto Stock Exchange, the third largest exchange in North America. The report also found that many public companies are self-reporting disability data because of increasing investor demand for social returns on investment.
Additionally, Disability:IN has engaged more than 30 of the world’s largest institutional investors and pension funds to call on the companies they invest in to make disability inclusion a top strategic priority and to disclose the disability status of their board members and executive leaders. Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, leader of the New York State Common Retirement Fund, said in a public statement, “As investors, we believe that diversity of thought, experience and background are important considerations when examining the construct of a board vis-a-vis our investment decisions. We continue to encourage our portfolio companies to capitalize on the opportunities of disability inclusion and report their efforts.”
To download the report and learn more about “Boards Are IN,” visit https://disabilityin.org/boards-are-in
Disability:IN is a global organization driving disability inclusion and equality in business. Nearly 500 corporations partner with Disability:IN to create long-term business and social impact through the world’s most comprehensive disability inclusion benchmarking and reporting tool, the Disability Equality Index (DEI); best-in-class conferences and programs; expert counsel and engagement; and public policy leadership. To learn more about Disability:IN’s key initiatives including Boards Are IN, Investors are IN, and CEOs Are IN, visit www.disabilityin.org
About Thomson Reuters Foundation
Thomson Reuters Foundation is the corporate foundation of Thomson Reuters, the global news and information services company. As an independent charity, registered in the UK and the USA, it works to advance media freedom, foster more inclusive economies, and promote human rights. Through news, media development, free legal assistance and convening initiatives, it uses the combined power of journalism and the law to build global awareness of critical issues faced by humanity, inspire collective leadership and help shape a prosperous world where no one is left behind. TrustLaw is the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s global pro bono legal programme, connecting high-impact NGOs and social enterprises working to create social and environmental change with law firms and corporate legal teams who provide them with free legal assistance, produce ground-breaking legal research, and offer innovative training courses worldwide.